FMLA protections for same-sex spouses blocked by federal court

A new Labor Department rule expanding job protections for same-sex spouses was set to take effect on March 27, but a federal judge has blocked the rule’s implementation. Specifically, the change would extend Family and Medical Leave Act protections to employees in same-sex marriages, regardless of whether they live in a state that doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage.

The rule change would guarantee 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected time off from work if the employee becomes seriously ill or injured, or if the employee has to care for a sick or injured spouse, child or parent. The unpaid time off could be as long as 26 weeks if the employee’s seriously ill or injured family member is in the military.

As with other protections under the FMLA, the new rule applies to private and public employers with 50 or more employees.

While LGBT spouses and advocates throughout the country have welcomed the change, officials in some states have mounted opposition. Shortly before the rule was set to take effect, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the federal government, claiming that the Labor Department’s extension of FMLA protections to same-sex spouses in Texas violates that state’s sovereignty.

Currently, Texas and 11 other states still do not recognize same-sex marriages, including ones that were legally performed in other states. The Texas attorney general’s lawsuit seeks to prevent the FMLA change from being enacted in all 12 states that have yet to recognize same-sex marriage.

Paxton’s lawsuit could be made moot, however, as a U.S. appeals court and the U.S. Supreme Court are scheduled to rule on marriage equality in the next few months.

If you would like to learn more about FMLA protections for employees in New York, then Serrins Fisher’s FMLA rights overview is a good place to start.

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